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Car salesman alleges European collusion in CIA abduction

A German car salesman of Lebanese birth who was the victim of a mistaken "extraordinary rendition" by the CIA is to have his case heard by the European Court of Human Rights tomorrow, as new evidence emerged of European government-level collusion in his abduction.

The case of Khalid el-Masri (48) will be heard by a panel of 17 judges in Strasbourg, the first time it has been considered in open court more than eight years after he was arrested in error by Macedonian border guards. He was then handed over to the CIA and flown to a detention centre in Afghanistan known as the "salt pit".

The case provoked an outcry after Mr Masri was dumped on an Albanian mountain road in May 2004 and was instrumental in lifting the veil on the CIA's "black" operations teams that moved al-Qa'ida suspects around the world in the early years of the "war on terror".

The Macedonian government has always officially denied handing Mr Masri to the CIA. The court is expected to hear new evidence that will contradict those claims.

"One of the most powerful pieces of evidence in the case is that a former senior minister of the Macedonian government has provided testimony that is in the file, essentially confirming Mr Masri's account," said James Goldston, a lawyer from the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative, who is representing the car salesman.

"It confirms that Macedonia did detain him, that they did so at the request of the CIA."

Lawyers for Mr Masri said he has never received an apology, compensation or an explanation from the US govern- ment. An attempt to sue the CIA in the US courts was rejected in 2006 under "state secrets" laws that allow cases to be thrown out if they risk revealing classified information.

It has been speculated that Mr Masri was misidentified as Khaled al-Masri, who was named in the US government's 9/11 Commission report as the man who persuaded two of the September 11 hijackers to travel to Afghanistan for training.

Both names are spelt identically in Arabic.

Mr Masri also attended a mosque in his home town of Ulm, Bavaria, that was reported to have been under surveillance for enlisting worshippers to fight in the war in Chechnya.

There has never been any suggestion that he was involved in militant activity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent